One of the big stories from the presidential campaign in recent days has been the upsurgence of ugly, hate-filled energy at the rallies of McCain and Palin. The candidates, in their quest for power, have pitched their words to appeal to the fears and prejudices of their audiences. And the several venomous outcries from their cries serve as manifestations of the fruit that such hate-oriented speech bears in receptive hearts and minds.
At one level, all this can be interpreted in terms of the individuals who are making the choice to seek victory at whatever cost. Better to “win ugly” than to lose with dignity and honesty, the conduct of these leaders clearly declares.
But at another level, this can be seen not in terms of mere individuals but as the playing out of vast forces in the cultural/political/moral/psychological system of American civilization. In this vast perspective, the individuals who pursue their own aims are more fundamentally the channels for forces of which they may be only dimly aware.
In particular, the ugly course the McCain campaign has taken is a sign not just of John McCain’s desperate ambition to be president but also as a last-ditch strategy of the forces of evil to bolster its position in the ongoing struggle between good and evil in America.
This idea of “the forces of evil” is, I know, not an easy one for many to accept. That’s particularly true in the more liberal components of contemporary America, where such notions are dismissed by some as vestiges of primitive religiosity. Realizing that resistance, yet also believing that the crisis in America under the Bushites is best understood in terms of “the forces of evil,” I undertook several years ago to articulate what I mean by “evil” and how I understand its workings. The result was the essay, “The Concept of Evil: Why It is Intellectually Valid and Spiritually and Politically Important”.
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[T]alking about the motives for human action as lying within us is an over-simplification. Yes, of course, our motivations are inside us. But we ourselves are substantially molded by those systems –cultural, historical—in which we are embedded.
Just as a hen has been described as an egg’s way of creating another egg, so also can we human “individuals” be seen as our culture’s way of perpetuating certain patterns. Through our socialization and our life-experiences generally our culture creates us –for better and for worse— in its own image.
History isn’t made just by people; it’s also made by forces.
This is the vital dimension that wasn’t captured by talking about the ruthlessness or amorality of individuals, and that led me to use the “e-word.” I saw something about the way that those forces operate, about how patterns can lurk in the cultural interstices, awaiting the chance to impose themselves again.
I then go on to illustrate how those forces work, appearing “as empirical forces embedded in the dynamics of human systems unfolding through time.”
And then I indicate my own sense that though “these forces seem comprehensible in naturalistic terms” they are
“also so vast and enduring that they require an expansion of our usual narrow perspective for us to perceive them; so subtle and transcendent in their operation that they do seem of a spiritual nature—acting as if they were animated by benign or malign intention.”
Evil may, as I suggest, be a naturalist phenomenon. But it acts AS IF it were something animated by intention, working opportunistically to further its work of destroying wholeness in the world.
It is in the framework of that perspective –a framework that I can only perceive in rough outlines, and then only when my mind is most expanded– that I offer this interpretation of the deeper meaning of the ugly road the McCain/Palin campaign has taken.
This ugliness works through the brokenness of the individuals who, governed by their lust for power, make the immoral choice to deal in lies that will provoke fear and hatred, and possibly violence. It also works through the brokenness of the individuals who receive the message and, though their own latent proclivities toward projection and displacement against scapegoats, are readily inflamed against imagined enenmies.
But behind the brokenness of these individual lurks the larger pattern of force that consistently works to break up wholeness in human affairs.
From the standpoint of that force, this ugly campaign is a way to sow the spores of evil in the souls of those people who are vulnerable to evil’s seductions.
With the presidential election increasingly beyond the capacity for Evil to control, the McCain/Palin campaign has become a means to prepare for evil’s counterattack on the advancing power of the good in America. With the spores of evil inflaming the hearts and minds of millions of Americans inclined toward fear and bigotry, this campaign is laying the groundwork for a guerrilla stage in the struggle. That will be a stage in which lies and hatred compose themselves into obstacles that an Obama presidency must contend with.
And, potentially, it plants the seeds of dark doings to prevent Obama from rebuilding what’s best in America in the wake of the the great damage done to all that’s best about America by this evil Bushite regime.
Evil, in retreat, disseminates its spores throughout the land. A defeat is coming for those evil forces that have given us this era of darkness. But through the choices of those who are seeking power through the channels evil has dug, evil finds a stronghold for the time beyond that defeat.
The struggle will go on.
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